Daily Digest: Water uncertainties remain for many growers, stunning photos of Lake Tahoe, and should water wasters face jail?, plus exotic animals deployed in Delta, Save Our Concrete protestors, and more news, real and not …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Water uncertainties remain for many growers, Record low snowpack will drive home drought's impacts, Stunning photos of low levels at Lake Tahoe, Satellite photos of West's shrinking snowpack, Should water wasters face jail?  A drought debate, Dairymen fear for their herds, Water worries dominate outlook for citrus growers,Agua Caliente tribe scores victory in water rights issue, It's time to change water policy, past dam-agency leader says, plus more news and commentary …

On the calendar today …


  • Water Storage Investment Program Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting from 9am to 4pm at the Tsakopoulos Galleria:  The California Water Commission's Stakeholder Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the Water Storage Investment Program and its regulations, solicitation package, public benefits, eligibility and more.  Click here for the agenda.
  • CDFW & WCB Prop 1 Grant Meeting (Sacramento) from 1 to 3 pm: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) will jointly conduct a public meeting to discuss their new grant programs established by Proposition 1. CDFW and WCB will also receive comments on their Draft Guidelines that describe the processes for grant applications through a competitive proposal solicitation process.  Click here for more information.


Hot breaking news flashes of the day …

Exotic animals deployed as Delta weed whackers:  “Visitors to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are doing double takes lately as they encounter some newly introduced “biological controls” to keep a fast-spreading waterweed from damaging boat propellers and choking off waterways.  Working with state water officials, UC Davis scientists last month released a herd or “bloat” of hippopotamuses from Botswana to chow down on vast mats of water hyacinth that also threaten to clog the intake to the California Aqueduct near Stockton. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Exotic animals deployed as Delta weed whackers

Save Our Concrete:  Trees are under attack by Save Our Concrete protestors …

Tex-Mex Consortium Corrals World's Largest Liquid Freshwater Resource: In a lavish 1 April 2015 press conference at his Billy Bob County ranch, Texas corporate raider-turned water entrepreneur-humanitarian T. Bone Lickens (shown here drying wet money, his favorite pastime) announced the biggest deal of his storied career: he and partners Bush Family Development (BFD) and Mexican billionaire Carlos Gordo have succeeded in gaining control of the freshwater resources of South America's Guaraní aquifer, which underlies parts of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay …  ”  Continue reading from Water Wired here:   Tex-Mex Consortium Corrals World’s Largest Liquid Freshwater Resource

In the news today …

Water uncertainties remain for many growers: Growers along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers whose irrigation districts have senior water rights remain up in the air as to how much water they’ll receive this spring.  As the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s initial water allocations in February remain unchanged with junior rights holders set to receive no federal water for agriculture, agency officials are holding ongoing discussions with senior rights holders to determine how much water can be delivered and when. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Water uncertainties remain for many growers

Record low snowpack will drive home drought's impacts: We are officially in uncharted territory.  The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of California’s water, is showing the lowest water content on record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1. That doesn’t just set a new record, it shatters the old low-water mark of 25 percent, which happens to have been last year’s reading (tied with 1977).  Things are so bad that Governor Jerry Brown has decided to slog into the field for the manual snow survey on Wednesday morning. He won’t need his snowshoes. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Record low snowpack will drive home drought’s impacts

Minimal snowpack will not ease California's drought:  “The latest figures on the California drought are expected to be released on Wednesday. The state's snowpack, a major source of water for the rest of the year, is at the lowest level on record.”  Listen to the show on NPR's Morning Edition here:  Minimal snowpack will not ease California’s drought

Stunning photos of low levels at Lake Tahoe:  Sad to say, this one is not an April Fools' post:  “It’s not unusual for Lake Tahoe to drop below its rim. What is unusual is when the spring runoff doesn’t bring it back up and above that 6,223-foot mark.  “This year the way things look it would take some pretty big precipitation to get back above its natural rim this year,” Scott McGuire, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno, told Lake Tahoe News. “The projection is for Lake Tahoe to be significantly below its rim by fall 2015.” … ”  Read more from Lake Tahoe News here: Low lake level changing life at Lake Tahoe

More pictures of drought: Watch the West’s Snowpack Shrink Dramatically Right Before Your Eyes in Striking Satellite Image Animations:On March 18th, I posted a story about the other big drought story you need to pay attention to — not the one in California, which has been garnering most of the headlines but the one that has been afflicting the Colorado River Basin.  Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on how our snowpack has been doing. And now, at the end of the month, I’m sorry to report that it’s not doing well at all.  The main culprit: High temperatures — outrageously so in some areas — have been causing premature melting of high mountain snows and early runoff.  I made the animation above to illustrate what’s happening. … ”  Read more from Discover Magazine here: Watch the West’s Snowpack Shrink Dramatically Right Before Your Eyes in Striking Satellite Image Animations

Should water wasters face jail?  A drought debate:  “State water officials bolstered existing emergency regulations this month in response to another year of drought. The new rules came with a warning, too: Even tougher restrictions could be on the way if water agencies and their customers don’t step up their conservation efforts.  But unlike during water crises of the 1970s and 1990s, there was no mention of sending water wasters to jail. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  Should water wasters face jail? A drought debate

Dairymen fear for their herds:  “When you have 5,000 or more lives in your hands, then water is a precious thing and every drop is important. In this fourth consecutive severe dry year, dairymen in this No. 1 milk-producing county in the world are concerned they will not have enough water to sustain their operations and keep their cows producing.  Tulare County is home to more than 600,000 head of cattle and calves, many of them dairy cows. In 2013, milk cows in Tulare County produced more than 11 billion pounds of milk at a value of more than $2 billion.  … ” Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Dairymen fear for their herds

Water worries dominate outlook for citrus growers:  “Navel orange trees are in bloom in the San Joaquin Valley and observers describe the bloom as “good,” but farmers say a fourth year of drought and a second year with no surface water deliveries will make it hard to produce a crop. For some, it may be impossible.  “It's a heavy bloom this year, which is good,” Tulare County citrus grower Matthew Watkins said. “But the trees know what's going on with the drought. They want to fruit and sense the lack of rain.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Water worries dominate outlook for citrus growers

Agua Caliente tribe scores victory in water rights issue:  “On Friday, March 20, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government impliedly reserved groundwater, as well as surface water, for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians when it created the tribe’s southern California reservation. The court cited the 1908 Winters Doctrine, a judicial guarantee that provides water for the needs of Native Americans who reside on federally reserved lands.  How much groundwater the United States reserved for the Agua Caliente band will be addressed later in the case, possibly through a trial. Yet the legal issue of whether the tribe has a federally reserved right to groundwater has been resolved in its favor. ... ”  Read more at Indian Country Today here:  Agua Caliente tribe scores victory in water rights issue

It's time to change water policy, past dam-agency leader says:  “The West used to solve its water troubles with dams. But now Dan Beard, a man who used to lead the nation’s dam-building agency, wants to shutter it.  Beard once oversaw the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s vast water network in the West, and he helped Congress decide on one billion dollars worth of finishing touches for the Central Utah Project.  But Beard says the water landscape has changed. ... ”  Read more from KUER here:  It’s time to change water policy, past dam-agency leader says

In commentary today …

Delta decisions should be made in public, say Don Nottoli and Katherine Miller:  They write, “California stands at a decisive crossroads. Our water needs for agriculture, business and residential use continue to grow while the consequences of drought, increased population and climate change are dangerously diminishing our water supplies.  To their collective credit, Gov. Jerry Brown, the Legislature and Congress have made finding long-term water solutions a top priority for 2015. Still, the range of competing and entrenched water interests (agriculture, water purveyors, environmentalists, local governments and ratepayers, among others) will only find a solution through an open, collaborative process. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Delta decisions should be made in public

The state needs new dams and reservoirs, say Tim Johnson and Joe Nelson:  They write, “Like a gift card buried in a dresser drawer, it is easy to forget the promise of a previous season.  Just seven months ago, the Legislature passed a $7.5 billion water bond. It was California’s gift card for water with funding for groundwater cleanup, environmental projects and improving our ability to move water to places that needed it most.  It included $2.7 billion for more water storage. And not just any storage – for surface storage. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  The state needs new dams and reservoirs

Farmers don't need help deciding what to plant, says the Modesto Bee:  They write, “Farms are not exaggerated lawns. Corn, melons and almonds have more value than, say, geraniums.  We found the suggestion in the column that accompanies this editorial, uh, perplexing. It could only have been written by someone with virtually no knowledge of actual farming, at least in our part of California.  Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton, one of Sacramento’s foremost observers, suggests the state (or someone) should tell farmers what they can plant. Crops that require more water would be forbidden during a drought. Less-thirsty crops would be OK – assuming there was enough water to also keep lawns in Long Beach green. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Farmers don’t need help deciding what to plant

State should support responsible plan for New Melones, Stanislaus River, say Steve Knell and Jeff Shields:  They write, “There is no way to get around the human, environmental and financial consequences of a fourth consecutive drought year in water-starved California. We have seen it in the fallowed fields on the west side of the Southern San Joaquin Valley and the economic devastation in that region. We have seen it in the reduced flows in rivers and historically low levels of many of the state’s reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  State should support responsible plan for New Melones, Stanislaus River

In regional news and commentary today …

St. Helena gets $1 million to remove dam: The city of St. Helena has received a $1 million federal grant to help pay for the removal of the Upper York Creek Dam, bringing the long-awaited project one step closer to breaking ground.  The Environmental Protection Agency has pledged $987,876 to reimburse the city for part of the cost of removing the dam, which has been deemed an illegal barrier to fish passage.  The $5.6 million project will also reconstruct the natural stream channel and restore the riparian environment with native plants. … ”  Read more from the St. Helena Star here:  City gets $1 million to remove dam

American Canyon planners recommend no front lawns on new homes:One day after a new poll showed most Californians want their neighbors to do more to save water during the drought, American Canyon’s Planning Commission endorsed a ban on lawns in front of new homes.  The Water Efficient Landscaping Ordinance would require all new developments to use drought-resistant plants in the front of homes instead of grass or natural turf.  The ordinance, which would have to be approved by the City Council, would not apply to existing homes, nor would it prevent lawns in backyards. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Valley Register here: American Canyon planners recommend no front lawns on new homes

Mother Lode elected reps urge easing of dam operation rules:  “Congressman Tom McClintock and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow sat shoulder to shoulder Saturday to urge worried Copperopolis residents to help push for reform of environmental regulations that the two legislators say threaten the viability of the town’s water supply.  “Fish are being put above human needs. This needs to simply stop,” Bigelow said.  The crisis is due, in part, to the drought that is now in its fourth year. New Melones Reservoir is storing so little water this spring that irrigation district officials say it could cease releasing water by the end of summer. … ”  Read more from the Calaveras Enterprise here:  Mother Lode elected reps urge easing of dam operation rules

Natomas ready to start building as drought worries hang over growth:  “The lifting of a Natomas building moratorium will open up thousands of undeveloped acres for new homes, apartments and businesses, but it will come as California struggles to manage its water.  While the drought is prompting some cities to require tougher water restrictions for construction on new homes, that’s not the case in Natomas. ... ”  Read more from CBS News here:  Natomas ready to start building as drought worries hang over growth

San Francisco bar offers discount on drinks to hold the ice: This is one for the say what? section:  “Two San Francisco bars are trying to conserve water, and making drinks stronger, to help fight California’s historic drought.  At Wish Bar you can order a drink any way you'd like, but now, if you order that drink with no ice you'll get a dollar off.  “It's our only thing we could cut back on,” said bar owner Andrea Minoo. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  Hold the ice: San Francisco bar offers discount on drinks to hold the ice

Tri-Valley's path eased for acquisition: A plan to provide relief from water shortages this summer for 80,000 people in Dublin and San Ramon has overcome a significant barrier.  The Dublin San Ramon Services District says its path toward buying surplus Yuba County water is clearer after the Tri-Valley's wholesale water supplier — Alameda County Zone 7 Water agency — withdrew its earlier protest against the transfer.The Dublin San Ramon water district now is waiting for federal permission to take the 1,500 acre-feet of water, roughly a four-month supply for 20,000 people. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Tri-Valley’s path eased for acquisition

Fresno County lettuce crop cut in half: The drought has become so bad in Central California that it’s now affecting the ingredients in your salad bowl. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on a major drop in the lettuce harvest in the region.  … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Fresno County lettuce crop cut in half

Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District looks at water options for 2015:  “A quid pro quo deal with a neighboring water agency will allow Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District a little more water management flexibility in the future.  According to district General Manager John Martin, the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water District in the Central Valley agreed to a 1,200 acre-foot allotment of its State Water Project water for 2015.  The trade-off: Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa gets 1,500 acre-feet of Tehachapi-Cummings groundwater stored in the Kern Water Bank in the future. … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News here:  District looks at water options for 2015

Jurupa Valley: $140 million project means more water in drought:With the Inland housing market on the rebound and California in the fourth year of a punishing drought, local water officials need a reliable source of fresh drinking water now and in the future.  A $140 million expansion of a water purification plant in Jurupa Valley is a pivotal part of the plan, they say.  The upgrade will mean more drinkable water for thirsty Inland residents.  … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  Jurupa Valley: $140 million project means more water in drought

New Sea World toilets flush with salt water:  “SeaWorld San Diego is getting creative to make sure California’s precious freshwater doesn’t just go down the drain.  The park announced Tuesday it has included a saltwater flushing system in its newest restroom. With it, officials expect to save about 1.3 million gallons of freshwater a year. … ”  Read more from NBC San Diego here:  New Sea World toilets flush with water

Lawsuit could lead to lower water costs for San Diego:With vast amounts of water and tens of millions of dollars at stake, the second phase of a long and bitter lawsuit between San Diego and Los Angeles water agencies started on Monday.  The suit stems from the San Diego County Water Authority’s contention that the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District has overcharged it for the cost of transporting Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.  The San Diego authority buys that water to lessen its dependence on Metropolitan, historically the dominant water supplier for all of Southern California. But the San Diego agency still relies on Metropolitan to deliver the that water because it doesn’t own its own aqueduct. … ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  Lawsuit could lead to lower water costs for San Diego

Coachella Valley water agencies seek to appeal ruling in tribe's lawsuit:  “The Coachella Valley’s two largest water agencies are seeking to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has a “reserved right” to groundwater.  The Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency filed a petition for permission to appeal the ruling with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.  “To protect the public’s access to an affordable and reliable water supply and prevent unnecessary rate hikes, Desert Water Agency will remain vigilant in our efforts to appeal this ruling,” DWA General Manager David Luker said in a statement Tuesday.  … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Coachella Valley water agencies seek to appeal ruling in tribe’s lawsuit

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

hard_working_on_computer_anim_150_clr_7364Maven’s Notebook
The diary of a confessed obsessive-compulsive California water news junkie

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